Saturday, April 18, 2009

War on Dysfunctional Behaviors

Comments on the article "Time to Declare War on Dysfunctional Behaviors"

By Mesfin Felleke

Even though this article by Ato Dessalegn Asfaw appeared more than two years ago, about every few months I look for it and read it to gain some new understanding of why we are who we are today as Ethiopians. I even pass it to friends and relatives to help them they ask themselves few questions so that they get into understanding their own dysfunctional behaviors.

The author of this article, I surmise, must be an expert in these areas of the human character as I probably would never have put it as succinctly and clearly as he did. However for long I have strongly felt the many character flaws in us Ethiopians is the basis for our continued inability to transform our struggle for democracy into an enduring force . I am not sure where and how we got all those flaws as described in Dessalegn’s article, but I suspect it is embedded in us as a result of our hundreds years of proud history as a geographically land locked people, fiercely guarding our own form of Christianity, our ancestors fighting many wars to guard off any outside influence of any form while living side by side with Muslims and other religious persuasions. As a result, for hundreds of years we forgot the world as the world also forgot us (from Edward Gibbons). This protectionism went on all the way to the start of the last century when Western influence poured in unmitigated in its various forms. Since then it has been nothing but outside influence mixed in its bad as well as good attributes. I think there is a great opportunity here for some learned Ethiopian to work on and find out how our historical background, mixed with Western influence shaped our current behavior.

The main reasons why I am commenting on this two years old article is:
  1. In spite of so many appalling endings, the movement to free our country from dictatorial leaders never stops from re-emerging in some form, somewhere by some group of people. One always hopes there is a learning from past failures.
  2. From what I have seen and heard these learning includes some amount of realization of the dysfunctional behaviors listed in this article. However I am not sure the desired remediation is formulated well enough by these emerging groups to underscore the changes needed to curtail another series of organizational failures.
  3. This is where I believe Dessalegn’s perfect analysis and presentation of our many dysfunctional behaviors come to fill a hitherto forgotten gap. A gap that has so far managed to render our countless political and supportive organizations as ineffective and eventually disbanded.
  4. To that end I will urge Ato Dessalegn to publish his article frequently. Maybe by reducing its lengthiness and changing its format here and there using short and bulleted points so that it creates curiosity, stays in our memory and turns to usability. In our fast paced life we have come to be time-sensitive towards long articles even though subject matters like his really need to be long to be effectively explained.
"Habit is habit, and not to be flung out of the window by any man, but coaxed downstairs a step at a time" (Mark Twain). And as such if we are repeatedly but systematically informed that our dysfunctional behaviors are formed habits and that habits can be reformed for the better, I know we will come to realize our short comings and listen to others who will provide us with well researched and practical solutions. Seldom did I see such a well done cause and effect analysis of "us". We could be lacking on those behavioral aspects, but I also know we are good people who, as a first generation newcomers to all the lands we spread into, we have managed to keep up with our educations, businesses, families and done well just like the locals. We will listen to a perfectly laid out analysis like Dessalegn’s if told repeatedly and intelligently enough.

Finally, as history will bear witness, we love our country and our people. We have shown that untold number of times, occasionally by willingly but foolishly paying the ultimate (Key Shibir) and often times by unselfishly contributing our money and time (Kinijit and its many supportive groups). I know this love and dedication may go up and down on the scale but will never fade away as long as there is an ounce of Ethiopian blood left in us and even in our children born and raised outside our country. So here today I urge Ato Dessalegn to expand on his study of analyzing "our dysfunctional behavior", finding the appropriate remediation and talk to us by publishing his works as often as possible till we get it right and take the necessary steps to fix it.

To those of you who agree with Dessalegn’s work, are endowed with public speech, and are actively involved in the Ethiopian Democratic movement, I beseech you to make it an active part of your organization building and group strengthening routine so that the rest of us take these character flaws seriously and actively work for remediation. Such recognition activities by our leaders, the remediation efforts duly practiced by them for good measure also goes a long way in forming strong followers and unrelenting loyalty to the cause of freedom.

Long live Ethiopia and the enduring fight by its children to create a better country where justice, equality, pursuit of happiness and the rule of just law will one day soon be practiced all across our land.

Readers who wish to contact the author can reach him at

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Sorry for the delayed reaction, Ato Mesfin - I was away.

I thank you for keeping up the awareness campaign and for reminding the rest of us to do so. I certainly intend to.